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Benjamin and Carolina’s Bereavement Diary
One of our volunteers lost two of her beloved bunnies in one year. She found comfort in keeping a diary with her feelings and little snapshots of her rabbits’ lives that she didn’t want to forget.
She says, “In my experience helping other rabbits – e.g. by sponsoring a shelter bunny, volunteering for an animal charity – is the best way of coping with pet loss and celebrating your rabbits’ lives. My bunnies have inspired some of Cottontails’ campaigns as well as my artwork, poems and children’s stories. These are being published on Cottontails’ website and will hopefully raise funds to help more rabbits.”
Below are 3 pages from Benjamin and Carolina’s bereavement diary. It was not originally meant for publication and the notes have been kept in the order they were written.
- Benjamin waiting by the kitchen sink to be cuddled while I did the washing-up.
- I am surprised I am not crying and I’m coping so well, then on my way home from work I burst into tears.
- The magnetic letters spelling out his name on the side of the microwave.
- I wasn’t with him when he died, he must have been afraid at the vet’s, waiting hours for his operation.
- I miss his smell and little noises [Benjamin had Pasteurella and breathed with difficulty].
- I worry I will miss him less as time goes on, forget his smell or how his ears felt when I stroked them.
- While I was burying Benjamin I wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do but now I find it very comforting to sit in the sunshine next to him, to read or have my breakfast.
- I was so happy we had Christmas together, because according to the vet he didn’t have long to live. Then I looked forward to celebrating his seventh birthday in February. And when I saw the buds on the trees I thought how wonderful it would be if Benjamin lived another spring and summer, hopping around the garden, sitting in the sunshine and eating geraniums as he liked to do [Benjamin died on 3 February].
- It was lovely to see the snow on his grave a few days after he was laid to rest, so dreamy and magical. It was like winter welcoming him.
- When he realised I was awake in the mornings Benjamin would jump on the bed for cuddles. I would leave a tiny bit of bread on the bedside table with a glass of water for him to have a snack. He loved my bedside table.
- Benjamin purred softly when I scratched his sides, back and bottom, but when he had enough he would do a little twirl, and offered me his face instead.
- The pine cone he nibbled on. They toy he played with in the photo, and lots of other things I’ve forgotten.
- Benjamin begging for a bit of croissant at breakfast.
- In appearance he probably wouldn’t have been my choice of rabbit [Benjamin was a Himalayan rabbit with pink eyes], but how little do these things matter when you fall in love with a bunny. It wasn’t long before I thought he was just perfect.
- Benjamin was my office bunny so it’s hard to work without thinking of him sitting under the printer’s desk to keep me company.
- The little hollow in the hay where he used to sleep.
- Benjamin loved bread! He would cheekily drag a baguette out of the supermarket bag as soon as I got home.
- In the summer the grey patch on his nose turned to brown.
- Benjamin slept on my bed and would wait for me in the evenings.
- He would always rush to greet me when I returned from work.
- Benjamin used to sip my water (and sometimes splash it) on the bedside table.
- Benjamin hopping so gracefully.
- His sweet little dewlap.
- I feel bad about washing his blankets.
- I try not to change things around the flat, but things do change – new pieces of furniture, new cardboard boxes and new toys for the other bunnies…
- Benjamin hopping around the garden for the first time, after he’d lived at least 5 years or maybe his whole life without feeling the grass under his feet. [Benjamin lived for years on a concrete garage rooftop before arriving at my foster home alone in a cab.]
- His little yawns. Benjamin tilting his head back when I stroked him.
- I miss calling his name when I get home.
- The little hollow between his shoulder blades where he liked to be scratched.
- As I was walking down the corridor one evening, I spotted him peeping out of a cardboard box and rushed to get my camera. Little did I know those would have been his last photos.
- Before his teeth started to hurt, Benjamin would nibble on a pear if he could find it in my shopping bags.
- Benjamin used to purr a lot and I called him “my little bumblebee”.
- He was my furry alarm clock, helping me to wake up in the mornings, giving me a wonderful, warm start to the day.
- As I was walking home today I realised I no longer expected him to greet me at the front door.
- Benjamin was always friendly towards visitors and let everyone pet him.
- There was always a lot of excitement and running around my feet when I opened a bag of bread.
- Benjamin was young at heart: cheeky, smart, quick, agile and inquisitive.
- He knew when he was being cheeky, e.g. when he ran off with some bread or when he ate the squirrels’ peanuts.
- He’d pull my sandwich out of my handbag as I got ready for work in the mornings. Once he dragged it so far that I would have been without lunch if I hadn’t noticed.
- He would rub his teeth softly when I kissed him on the nose, and I buried my face in his fur.
- Even though I’m getting used to living without him, it doesn’t mean I love him any less.
- I miss his bunny smell, I can’t smell it anymore.
- “He is just a rabbit in a hutch”, said his previous owner.
- The pitter-patter of Carolina’s feet as she hops towards my bed in the middle of the night.
- Carolina playing with my long dresses – running under the skirts then sticking her head out.
- The way she guarded her home by sitting on the kitchen doorstep.
- I’ll miss her running around my feet, and waiting by the sink while I washed the vegetables the way Benjamin used to do too. I wish I could be at home with her and not have to work [Eventually I took a couple of months off work to nurse her, one of the best decisions I ever made.]
- Carolina running at full speed up and down the garden. All I had to do was call her and she’d come running to me.
- I’m slowly opening my heart to other bunnies, like Sweetpea.
- 8 months without Benjamin. I still remember what it felt like to hold my little Benjamin, how much he weighed in my arms, the softness of his fur. Carolina has gone off her food but today (the first sunny day in weeks) she is hopping around the garden nibbling on the apple and kale and running around the foster bunnies’ pen.
- Carolina seems to move less and every day she eats a little less and I have to find new ways of feeding her, mashed pear and apple, soft pieces of bread, etc. I have a couple of apple branches she nibbled just last week. But she can’t nibble on hard things anymore.
- Carolina is not doing well and her left eye is weepy.
- I am not ready to lose her. She’s 6¾ years old today. She’s coming home from the hospital tomorrow. The vet says realistically she doesn’t have very long, she’s living on borrowed time. I missed her so much yesterday when she was in hospital and so did Sweetpea.
- Last night I heard Carolina breathing noisily, so I got up and found her under an upturned basket, where she’d never gone before. She immediately rushed out to greet me. So I lay down on the floor and for the first time in several days she licked me. She gave my face a good wash!
- Her beautiful, soft brown eyes.
- She looks so small.
- Carolina died on 26 November at 11.56 am.
- I regret always being so busy while she was alive. Now these things don’t seem so important.
- The sweetest thing was when she followed me around the flat and hopped on the bed even when she was unwell.
- Carolina checking out the foster bunnies by running around their pen in the garden.
- Carolina sleeping under the rosemary bush.
- Dear Carolina, I thought I heard your footsteps on the floorboards today.
- My sweet friend and top bunny.
- I still find her bits of fur around the flat – Carolina’s dustbunnies.
- She was my baby, but not in the way people think, not a child substitute as I have never wanted children. I’ve always found friendship between different species even more wonderful, and magic.
- Sweetpea has been a great comfort. He is sweet and often hops on my bed. I’ve bonded with him more quickly than I thought.
- Drawing and listening to the radio with Carolina sitting in the dog basket under the table.
- I feel sorry for Sweetpea, who is all alone and must miss her too. He really enjoys meeting the new foster bunnies and this encourages him to hop around the garden.
- My biggest regret is all the times I worked late while my bunnies were waiting for me at home.
- Yesterday as I opened my box of art materials I remembered the last time I used them I had my little Carolina with me. I thought about the last day I painted with my bunny in the dog bed under the table, I didn’t know then it would be the last time.
- The way Carolina loved to play with my keys, and tossed them noisily around the corridor.
- It’s now over 7 months since Carolina died. And yesterday it was 15 months since Benjamin passed away. It doesn’t sound very long, yet it feels like a lifetime ago since they were here. I’ve been doing a lot of drawings of Sweetpea lately, we’ve become very close now that the Benjamin and Carolina are gone.
- Watching Peanut and Sweetpea in the garden, I remember when my little Carolina used to turn her ears to listen to me.
- Carolina jumping on the sun lounger while I was sunbathing.
- This morning I woke up to a blanket of snow and a picture-postcard view of the garden. It reminded me of Carolina hopping on the snow. I opened the door to let Sweetpea and Peanut out but even though Peanut stepped on the patio, she didn’t venture on the snow. [Peanut is a foster bunny I later adopted as a friend for Sweetpea.]
- Carolina’s little toothmarks on the kitchen door, where she tried to open it. The nibbled skirting board I now treasure.
- Carolina would lie down in the middle of the corridor so I wouldn’t miss her when I walked in and out of rooms and would give her extra cuddles.
- When I had a bath last night there was no bunny waiting for me to get out of the bathroom, like Carolina used to do.
- Sitting on the kitchen step with Carolina napping on the wooden ledge beside me. That was her place.
- Yesterday as I put Peanut down on the floor I remembered how Carolina would have thumped in protest after being picked up.
First Day with Carolina
16 years ago this was our first full day together
and our new life was beginning.
You’d spent your first night under the washing basket
and Juliet took a Polaroid of me holding you.
I can still see you hopping around the kitchen full of beans
and how I worried I wouldn’t look after you properly.
But most of all I remember the love I felt for you right away
and all the happy years ahead.
When Carolina was here
she loved to play with the dustpan and brush
while I cleaned the floor,
she would pick them up
and toss them around enthusiastically
while I cheered her on.
I’d forgotten all this until yesterday
when I was sweeping bits of hay and straw near Buttercup’s bed
then the memories came flooding back.
Looking at Carolina, Benjamin and Sweetpea
I remember one day
I stopped washing the dishes or tidying up the kitchen,
looked at Carolina, Benjamin and Sweetpea
and felt such happiness.
“It’s perfect,” I thought,
“They’re friends, healthy and content.
I don’t wish for anything else.”
Yet so often I’m too busy to stand still
even for a minute
and be grateful for all I have,
the wonderful everyday things
that can be taken away so easily.
These poems are taken from “Poems for Peanut”, which will gradually be published on Cottontails’ website.